Meeting the Health Needs of a Diverse Workplace

April is National Minority Health Month. Are you and your staff doing everything you can to ensure your entire staff remains in good health?

One of the Bay Area’s greatest strengths is our diversity. As an employer, you have a vested interest in your workforce’s health and wellness, but minority employees sometimes struggle to access consistent high-quality care and coverage.

Minority Groups Are Less Likely to Receive Quality Healthcare

Research consistently shows a dramatic disparity between health outcomes for minority groups and the White, non-Latino population. For example:

  • Black mothers are two to three times more likely to die due to pregnancy and childbirth-related causes.
  • Infant mortality rates for Black children were more than double that of White children in 2005 and 2008.
  • Black children are twice as likely to have asthma-related hospitalizations — and four times more likely to die from asthma than their White peers.
  • Black men are twice as likely to die from prostate cancer.
  • Almost one-third of Latino adults didn’t see a doctor in 2014.
  • Only 68% of Asian and Pacific Islander women underwent a pap smear in the last three years.
  • In 2010, 70% of transgender patients and almost 56% of lesbian, gay, and bisexual patients reported that healthcare providers had refused to provide them with care, refused to touch them, or were abusive when they sought medical care.
  • 24% of Latino adults and 21% of Black adults avoid or delay health care due to cost.

Researchers typically link these inequities to poverty, socioeconomic status, and English fluency. However, there’s undeniably more at play: minority patients are often wary of the healthcare system due to historic segregation and mistreatment. 

We Can Improve Minority Healthcare

Some health disparities are due to genetics and ancestry. However, most are preventable social inequities. While there isn’t one simple solution to our country’s health inequities, employers can help improve their diverse workforce’s access to care and healthcare literacy — and foster an inclusive approach to healthcare. 

You Need a Network with Diverse Physicians and Medical Providers

The U.S. lacks minority physicians and medical providers. While Latinos and African-Americans comprise 16% of the population, they make up 6% or less of our doctors. Many patients are more comfortable with a doctor with whom they share a similarity — such as race, ethnicity, gender, or language fluency. This can lead to a better exchange of information, increased trust, and better compliance with the doctor’s recommendations. Similarly, doctors who understand a patient’s cultural background can frame their advice in ways that are consistent and palatable with their shared norms.

Look at your healthcare network’s diversity. Do your employees have access to physicians with shared backgrounds and experiences? If not, consult with your insurance broker about other network options, such as Canopy Health’s robust alliance of over 5,000 physicians and 18 hospitals across 8 Bay Area counties*.

Build Healthcare Literacy

Many employees simply don’t understand their healthcare benefits — regardless of race, ethnicity, national origin, or other factors. However, if you’ve dealt with systemic barriers to healthcare or struggle understanding English, you’re even less likely to understand your healthcare options. 

Employers should build healthcare literacy programs that educate their employees about basic health, wellness, and health insurance issues. If you have a multilingual workplace, offer materials in your workers’ native languages or offer non-English workshops or training sessions. You should also highlight your health plan’s health equity services. For example, many carriers (including Health Net and UnitedHealthcare) offer assistance for underserved populations.

Improve Access to Care 

Your employees might not use their healthcare benefits if they:

  • Can’t afford their copays and/or deductibles (or don’t understand how to calculate their out-of-pocket medical costs) 
  • Need to travel long distances to reach a doctor’s office and don’t have reliable transportation
  • Are unsure how to balance their workload, personal life, and wellness needs
  • Feel as if their healthcare options are culturally inappropriate or unwelcoming

If your employees aren’t maximizing their healthcare benefits, start asking questions. A survey of your employees might help shed light on the weaknesses in your current health plans. For example, you might discover that your team needs a larger local network, more inclusive providers, increased healthcare education, onsite health services, or different healthcare incentives.

Canopy Health Is Dedicated to Diversity

Our alliance of physicians and hospitals is committed to health equity. In 2015, the NAACP gave Dignity Health the highest grade in its Opportunity & Diversity Report Card, citing the organization’s commitment to hiring minority employees at every level of its workforce. UCSF Medical Center has consistently scored a perfect score on the Human Right Campaign’s Health Equity Index. Both UCSF Medical Center and John Muir Health have been named  “Leaders in LGBTQ Healthcare Equality.” UCSF is also home to the Multiethnic Health Equity Research Center, which helps identify health inequities, build solutions, and train providers and healthcare students about the ways that bias and inequity impact medical care.

Canopy Health celebrates the Bay Area’s remarkable diversity and is committed to the health and wellness of all our members. We deliver high-quality healthcare from providers of all backgrounds in eight counties, improving our members’ access to care. Similarly, our alliance members and carrier partners have been recognized for their support of inclusive healthcare.


Artiga, S., Foutz, J., Cornachione, E., Garfield, R. (2016, June 7). Key facts on health and health care by race and ethnicity. Kaiser Family Foundation. Retrieved from

HHS action plan to reduce racial and ethnic health disparities (2011, April). Department of Health and Human Services. Retrieved from

NAACP opportunity & diversity report card: the healthcare industry (2015). NAACP. Retrieved from

Silverstein, J. (2015, April 13). Genes don’t cause racial-health disparities, society does. The Atlantic. Retrieved from

The black-white disparity in pregnancy-related mortality from 5 conditions: Differences in prevalence and case-fatality rates (2007, February). American Journal of Public Health. Retrieved from